Tips given on how to be safe, happy on July 4th

Using fireworks on our nation’s birthday is as American as the proverbial apple pie, backyard barbecues, and boating on the lake. And it is equally as safe — if a few common sense rules are followed. Sherman Fire Marshal Nathan Huffman and Denison Fire Marshal John Weda provided the following tips on the best ways to have fun while keeping it all safe and sound.

These and other area fire departments traditionally are involved in the July 4th fireworks shows, if for no other reason than they are the ones who stand by in cases of emergencies. Huffman said that Sherman Fire Department has been working with other city agencies for months to create a master plan for keeping the public out of harm’s way at Tuesday night’s Lights On The Lake. Nothing is left to chance, he said. “We plan on how to take care of anything that could go wrong, and then pray that it doesn’t,” Huffman said.

Denison Fire Department handles the fireworks show in that city. Weda said that Denison Fire Chief Gordon Weger is a state-licensed pyrotechnic technician and he is assisted by fire department volunteers, each given distinct and separate responsibilities. These are, in Weda’s terms, “loaders, runners, lighters, fire watchers, and such. After the show, we check all the fireworks and make sure they are out so nobody gets hurt,” he said, adding that all the city’s fire stations remain fully staffed while the volunteers come in to work the fireworks display. And in practice what you preach mode, Weda added that all those involved in putting on the show wear safety glasses and ear-plugs.

Caution and preparation are the two most common safety tips Huffman and Weda used. First, it’s important to remember that fireworks are not allowed in the incorporated portions of any city in Grayson or Fannin counties. And this year, when the June 15 deadline came and went for county commissioners to set any special restrictions on certain types of fireworks, the drought index was not into the danger levels, and so neither commissioners court set such restrictions. Drought indexes are based on a balance of precipitation and soil moisture. Monday, the Keetch-Byram drought index used by the Texas Forest Service showed this area of Texas to be at low-to-moderate fire danger.

This does not mean that grass fires cannot be set, however. This past weekend, the fire departments served by Grayson County Sheriff’s Office dispatch answered 12 fire calls and two for fireworks believed by the callers to have been being used dangerously, and that number does not reflect the other agencies with their own dispatch centers. Twice as many fires are reported nationally on July 4 than any other time of year, Weda pointed out.

Huffman said that it is always a good idea, regardless of how much rain we’ve had, to have your home-based fireworks fun on a well-manicured lawn, on driveways, or on gravel. And then, always set off the fireworks from a solid, flat surface, never holding them in your hands.

Other tips include:

• Young children should never handle or use fireworks, and it’s a good idea for parents to closely supervise their teens if they are using fireworks. And it’s important to keep your spectators out of the way, even behind you when setting them off. “These are explosives,” Huffman said, “and should be treated as such.” Weda added that the spectators should be upwind of the fireworks.

• Have a fire extinguisher or water hose beside you if shooting fireworks.

• Know your fireworks. It’s important to read the labels for striking a match. And do not use any “homemade” fireworks most injuries to kids happen to those between 8 and 14 years.

• Fireworks parties should not include alcohol — the two don’t mix safely.

• Wear safety glasses and ear protection whenever using fireworks is recommended for those standing close.

• Never relight a “dud” firework. If one doesn’t go off, leave it alone for 20 minutes and then emerge it in water.

• When using sparklers, and especially the little children love doing that, always remain standing, never hold more than one sparkler at a time, and never hold a child in your arms while using sparklers. Sparklers reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees, Huffman said, and that creates a real potential for danger.

• Used fireworks, including sparkler sticks and wire, need to be dropped into a bucket of water before throwing them in the garbage can.

Weda recommends the best combination for family fun and fireworks is to “find a show and take your family up there. Leave it up to the professionals.”

Here’s a recap of some of those available, free fireworks shows between now and Friday night. The fireworks start at near-dark at all of them, and some include other activities for the children in addition to the music and lighted-up skies.

July 3 — Sherman: Lights on the Lake, Pecan Grove Park West, 3200 Canyon Creek Drive. Live music by the Oliver White Group at 7 p.m. and Chance Cody & Spur 503 at 8:40 p.m. and then again after the fireworks show. TAPS will provide free bus service from satellite parking locations at Faith Church and Sherman Bible Church, both on FM 1417.

July 4 — Denison: The 25th Fourth of July Celebration at Munson Stadium, 300 W. Crawford. Gates open at 7 p.m. and fireworks will be at dark. The band Red Leather will provide entertainment. No chairs are allowed, only blankets.

July 4 — Gunter: Fourth of July in the Park at 5 p.m. with a barbecue competition and fireworks.

July 4 — Durant: Fireworks followed by Johnny Cooper Band at Choctaw Casino grounds.

July 6Highport Marina: Fireworks and the Dustin Perkins Band